1. DEFINING SUCCESS
Kaylie Jones Books encourages all authors to take time and space to think about what success means to them. Is it selling a thousand copies? Is it reading at your favorite bookstore?
You, the author, have to decide what it means for you, and your book, to be successful.
The success and promotion of your book are in your hands. In this guide, we will break down self-promotion into manageable sections with timelines to help you and your book. The key elements are:
- Creating a budget
- Building an audience
- Capitalizing on social media
2. CREATING A BUDGET
This is perhaps the most important consideration when it comes to your book’s promotion. Your budget will determine how much you can realistically accomplish. Some categories to consider when creating your budget are:
- Travel for book tours
- Website creation and maintenance
- Social media marketing
- Purchasing books for sale at events
- Book release parties
You can hire a public relations professional to research how and where to best target your book. They will create a media plan that works with your release date and book tour. There are all sizes of PR firms that will work within your budget. You are paying for their expertise and their contacts to get reviews, print placement, advertisements, and people to your events.
Book Tours and Travel
Research cities that you believe will welcome the topic of your book; i.e. make sure you go South if it’s about BBQ, West if it’s about the desert, and include as many major cities as you can. Work with your publisher on bookstores, community centers, schools, etc. in these areas that are open to readings. Calculate how many days you can travel with regards to plane tickets or
gas, hotels, and food. If you have friends across the country, ask if you can stay with them for a night. If you can set up travel and readings with another author, so much the better. The Kaylie Jones/Barb Taylor/J. Patrick Redmond tour of 2016 was good for all of them. It attracted new readers to diverse books, brought in a captive audience, and you can split expenses.
Website Creation and Maintenance
We recommend that you speak with Lauren J Sharkey if you have questions or concerns about website creation and maintenance before purchasing anything.
First you will have to pay for your domain name; check online sources to make sure you get the best price. Then dedicate a website solely to your book or your writing. There are a number of web hosting sites you can use that offer varying packages depending upon your budget. Some hosts are free if you do the work yourself, and some charge to design and maintain content for you. Make your website professional and decide how much time you are going to spend on keeping it current. The cautionary tale here is, you must maintain it.
Lots of people have pages for their personal life. The accounts you need here are for your writing. It’s difficult to merge the two, as people who will come to know you as an author will probably not care about your birthday wishes to your cousin. Also, check your personal footprint on social media so you can remove all the embarrassing college photos because your focus now should be on your book. Know your social media platforms and become adept at using them. Research which programs are most popular with certain groups; i.e., teenagers love Instagram, so if you’re a YA author, get on it. Try to pick no more than three, because you need to keep them current. You can post a
great book photo on Instagram and then add a line or two of text for tumblr followed by making a short video for YouTube which you must then tweet about on Twitter and follow with a link to Facebook, but — this can easily become your whole life. Choose the ones you can handle, and your audience will learn where you are most active, because you will tell them.
Selling Books at Events
Check with bookstores before your readings to see how many copies of your book they are stocking before your reading. In smaller cities, or at libraries and community centers, you may have to bring your own books with you to sell, along with money for making change. Most audience members at readings want to get a signed copy, so make sure you can accommodate them. If you run out of books, you can ask them if they’d like to mail you a copy when they purchase it and you’ll sign it and send it back to them. Remember, you are building an audience and it’s worth the postage.
Book Release Parties
These can range from New York industry parties with publishers, agents, and film producers, to literary salons with authors and critics, to intimate dinners with invited guests such as politicians and stage directors, to open bar parties with audience members after readings. You can plan the party around your book content as well; Stacey Lender offered a free babysitting service at her
book launch for City Mouse, because many of her characters are mothers of young children. Barbara Taylor held readings for All Waiting is Long at the Lackawanna Historical Society, because her book is centered on Scranton in the 1930s. Choose the venue that best connects your book with your target audience.
When choosing bookstores in other cities than your own, it is better if it’s a community where you have good, solid contacts. Bookstores rarely advertise, and if they do, it is usually a sign on the door. Even if the event appears in local papers, it may not draw an audience. If you’re travelling, make sure it is to places that are 1. Connected to your topic (as you said) and 2. Where you have connections, good friends, or good press contacts.
Also, for personal sales, you can use Square. It tracks exactly how much you make, and people can use a credit card. Also, as we learned from Barb’s experience, having AN EXTRA BOX OF BOOKS in your car, or 10 extra copies if you’re travelling via public transportation, is really helpful. Bookstores often run out, or the books don’t arrive in time.
Akashic will organize and publicize ONE LOCAL EVENT per writer. The author is responsible for invitations beyond the public Akashic invite on their web page.
3. BUILDING AN AUDIENCE
This should start well in advance of your book hitting the streets. Social media is your best friend here. People like to follow progress online, whether it is a pregnant giraffe or a new book. When your book hits the bestseller list, people like to say, “I remember when this book started as an essay from a workshop.” It makes them feel closer to your success.
Starting to build a platform early is about showing your expertise in whatever field you have written about. “Friend” people, or “follow” people in your field. And ALWAYS PROMOTE THE WORK OF OTHERS. This makes people like you. Talk about the subject on Twitter and Facebook, like, Laurie’s was about the US Chautauqua circuit in 1917 and women’s roles in society. She posted a lot about WWI and women’s roles on the front; she posted about women’s rights; getting the vote, etc. She set herself up as an expert on the time and specifically on women at that time. This kind of platform needs to be set up well in advance of publication.
Some authors start their dedicated book posting upon completion of their first draft, others upon signing with an agent. There’s no clear-cut timing here, but in these instances, you are likely to be looking at a couple of years at the least. In this case, keep your promotional writing short and positive so you don’t lose your audience.
Other authors begin when they get a publishing contract. Now you have a timeline for a physical product, and can work from that. Including photos and occasional short videos in your social media is always a good idea to keep things fresh.
Post enough so that people will want to follow your story. “I just got an offer for publication from Kaylie Jones Books!” Giving people something positive to react to is good. You can post about your cover selection, your plans for a book tour, ask questions about where you should go, etc. Online contacts, people you’ve never met, may give you names of places to read in their city,
invite you to read at their local bookstore, have you as a guest at their cultural center. And you can ask them to reach out to their friends as well.
Snappy and witty posts will keep people reading, just like a book. Relevance to current events also goes a long way; if your book is set on the 4th of July, write a few lines about the holiday from your book, and a picture of fireworks. Keep people engaged. Make them want to read it.
If you have a “hook” for your book, for instance, if there are lots of sailboats in it, use that. Videos about opening your first box of books, or posting a picture of someone on the street reading your book show progress with your book out in the world. Keep your postings general enough, however, that you don’t immediately alienate potential readers. Maybe there’s an abortion in your book, but unless it is a main theme, it doesn’t have to be pointed out.
Make sure you remain open to all possibilities with readers. Many of the intended audience for Some Go Hungry, a book dealing with God and gays in 1980s Indiana, would not automatically pick up All Waiting is Long, about unwed mothers in coal mining country in the 1930s, or The Anger Meridian, a study in dysfunctional families set in Mexico. Yet when these three authors
went on a book tour together, readers were exposed to different genres and embraced new books. The bottom line here is – don’t rule readers out. If it’s well written, the genre doesn’t matter.
4. CAPITALIZING ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media changes more often than a teenage girl. What’s written today may be obsolete within a few months. So your first task is to research programs as far as their types of content offered and the means of delivery. Some programs are primarily for text, some offer photos, some are strictly video, and some can
offer a mixture of all three. Research into their target audience for age range, sex, income, geography, and any other pertinent information.
When you choose your social media, make sure you offer links on each platform to your other programs. You can easily download logos that will take a reader from your content on Pinterest to YouTube if that is their preferred platform.
Author J. Patrick Redmond says, “Once the book is out, you’re a marketer.” Plan to devote a few months to cheering this book on before you start writing the next one. It’s all part of the process of publishing, and the person who can best promote the book is the author.